I wrote a handwritten letter today to an old friend, script tracing across notebook paper in practiced cursive loops. We used to write back and forth all the time after we left college. On weekends we’d sometimes call and talk for hours. Then, with the advent of email, we left off writing for the more immediate communication, but those emails became shorter and the time between them grew longer until we couldn’t remember who’s turn it was to respond. When there’s not much time between replies, not much happens worth writing about. Then I got a Facebook page, and my dear, private friend did as well. She doesn’t post very often, but she sees what’s going on with my family. It makes conversation almost redundant.
I’m not a luddite. I love my technology, and writing that letter made me realize how beautiful computer driven cut and paste are as I messed up and had to begin again. I am from the era of literal cutting and pasting, of typing on ribboned typewriters that may or may not have had automatic return and a correction ribbon. I am also from the era of practicing cursive writing in and out of class, of perfecting my signature on Pee-Chees and papers, over and over again. I am from the era of the handwritten letter.
As I wrote my letter, I felt calm…tranquil. I slowed down and thought about what I was saying. I thought back on all of the letters back and forth, many of which I still have, and the lengthy jokes and topics of conversation that would span weeks or months. It was a deep and slow planting of friendship, nothing glossed over, care taken in choosing words and time taken to write and mail them. It spoke of intent.
I wonder if we’ve lost that slow and deliberate attention to one another. Screens have taken over our lives. As I sit in front of my computer right now, the television is on. My husband watches it as he scrolls through Instagram on his phone. Goose is on his own screen in his own room. While my actual mailbox sits nearly empty, my email inbox is crammed with nearly two thousand emails. Two thousand!
Immediacy has taken over our lives, and while it has its place, I worry that we have forgotten to slow down and savor the relationships near and far, to make the things that are dear to us special.
I wrote that letter today, and I anticipate one in return.
In response to The Daily Post’s one word prompt: Screen.